The demand for reliable, affordable and accessible energy that meets the needs of the present generation in an increasing one as demand to reduce poverty, improve health, increase productivity and promote economic growth, this has already reached desperate levels due to challenges of energy insecurity. While assessing the current energy options, debates on whether nuclear energy offers the best alternative to satisfy the needs of the world’s energy demands or will end up as an energy that resulted into extinction of humanity on earth.
While the debate goes on, recently the government of Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia rolling out plans to exploit Uganda’s Uranium, a resource used to produce nuclear energy resources. If all goes as planned, Uganda will become among the first African country to exploit nuclear energy in recent times.
According to Surveys from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Uganda has about 52,000 square kilometers (sq. km) of Uranium deposits, with 22,000 sq. kilometers in the Lake Albert region, 18,000 sq. kilometers in Buganda and Tooro regions, and 12,000 sq. km in Karagwe-Ankole.
With the challenges of climate change and energy insecurity around the world, Nuclear energy has the potential to generate the much-needed energy with small amount of uranium to power the world to secure energy future. In fact, due to its efficiency and abidance in nature, it has the potential to solve the worlds energy challenges and contribute to mitigating climate change, its emits less or no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as compared to other non-renewable energy sources.
However, to sustainably it, more advanced technology must be employed with advanced precautionary measures employed because in the event of an accident, radioactive material from Uranium could be released into the environment and its waste can remain radioactive and hazardous to health for thousands of years with visible impacts across generations.
Despite the facts that it’s the energy for 21st century, it has been characterized by a number of disasters that have left people worse off than they were. For instance, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) a an American based humanitarian organisation estimates that the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine displaced nearly 220,000 people from their homes, and the radioactive fallout from the accident destroyed 4,440 square kilometers of agricultural land and 6,820 square kilometers of forests in Belarus and Ukraine were unusable. Further, the Fukushima nuclear accidents of 2011 that was caused by a powerful earthquake and Tsunami killed more than 20,000 lives and affected different sectors of the economy.
If we consider developing nuclear energy, it is important for government to borrow lessons from the best countries, invest heavily on advanced technology and built competent human resource with capacity to contain any adverse effects the plant may have on the environment.
Otherwise, it is clear that renewable energy technology including solar, wind, geothermal, hydro energy among others offer the best alternatives and are safe to both environment and people and have the potential to power the world into an energy secure future.
By Samuel Okulony
Programmes and Research Coordinator (Environmentalist)
Africa Institute for Energy Governance